“Naked Nazis — Book Reveals Extent of Third Reich Body Worship” Der Spiegel “unexpectedly” reports:
What did Germans read during the Nazi era? In search of the answer, author Christian Adam surveyed a total of 350 bestsellers from the 12 years of the Third Reich’s existence — making striking discoveries in the process. In addition to well-known propaganda books like Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and Alfred Rosenberg’s “The Myth of the Twentieth Century,” there were schmaltzy regional novels, science fiction, mysteries, love stories, joke books and cross-media marketed accompaniments to radio programs and films.
The rich variety of reading material likely arose because different censorship offices competed to have the last word on what books publishers could print, Christian says. The paradoxical effect is that some of the books printed seem surprising today. Perhaps the oddest of them all was Hans Surén’s “Mensch und Sonne,” or “Humans and Sun,” a collection of nude photographs that includes lyrical praise of the male member, instructions for yoga-like exercises and even naked skiing.It could be seen as a precursor to the sexual revolution and “Freikörperkultur (FKK),” or “free body culture” of the late 1960s, if it weren’t so blatantly racist, researcher Adam told SPEIGEL ONLINE in an interview.
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SPIEGEL ONLINE: Isn’t this relish for physicality difficult to reconcile with the discipline that characterized the Nazis, though?
Adam: The public perception of the book market between 1933 and 1945 is distorted. One thinks only of “Blood and Soil” in literature and propaganda. But as I systematically looked at which book titles sold more than 100,000 copies, there were a few surprises. “Mensch und Sonne” is nothing special in itself, there had been a number of books on nudist culture since the 1920s. But new to me was not just that such books were very successful during this time, but that they also enjoyed the support of the authorities.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The book states that, “the love life can never be tied to marriage alone,” and that, “in the past the biggest personalities held as little regard for religious and middle-class values as the masses.” It also says that “free sexual love is therefore accepted in a way similar to how it was among the Germanic forefathers.” Was society during the 12 years of Nazi rule more accepting of pleasure than during the administration of Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first postwar chancellor?
Adam: Historian Dagmar Herzog showed in her book “Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany” just how contrary the actual sexual liberalization was to the conservative appeals in official statements. The youthful sense of romance did exist, but otherwise women gained a new self-confidence as they were forced into traditionally male roles because men were fighting on the front lines. Within the regime there were strong anti-middle class and anti-clerical impulses. During Adenauer’s time, the prevailing sexual morality was much more conservative because people equated the Nazi horrors with a lack of moral restraint.